Education in Bloom

A blog post by Rachel Turniansky, Special Education Coordinator and Principal of Gesher LaTorah.

turniansky.jpgHow often do you think about thinking? For many teachers, that’s half the challenge of educating their students. Our challenge is not just to teach them, but teach them to think. Bloom’s Taxonomy is one way to help teachers think about thinking. Bloom’s taxonomy is a well-known way of helping teachers do just that. 

A taxonomy is really just a word for a form of classification. What Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues did in the 1950’s was to provide a pedagogical framework for classifying vast numbers of educational objectives into useful structures.  Bloom researched what really made people think and what didn’t require complex thinking skills. 

According to Bloom, thinking skills can be broken down into a hierarchy in six categories: 

Recalling Information 
Understanding Meaning 

Using learning in
a new situation 

  • Where did....
  • What was....
  • Who was...
  • When did....
  • Name the...
  • How many...
  • List the...
  • Define...
  • State in your own
  • Give an example...
  • Is __ the same as __?
  • Explain how...
  • Describe what...
  • Explain what is
    happening when...
  • Draw a diagram of...
  • Write a statement that
  • What would happen if...
  • Judge what would
    happen if...
  • Tell how, when, where,
  • Tell how much change
    there would be if...
Ability to see parts and
Use parts of info. to create
original whole 
Judgement based on criteria 
  • How are __and __the
  • How are __and__
  • Write a fact and an
    opinion about___.
  • Compare and contrast
  • Pretend you are___.
    What would you do?
  • Design a ___.
  • Use your imagination to
    draw a picture of___.
  • Develop a ___.
  • State a rule about ___. 
  • Is __ important? Why
    or why not?
  • Defend a need for___.
  • ___shoudl be on the list
  • ___should not be on the
    list because... 

Knowledge: remembering or recalling appropriate, previously learned information to draw out factual (usually right or wrong) answers. Use words and phrases such as: how many, when, where, list, define, tell, describe, identify, etc., to draw out factual answers, testing students' recall and recognition. 

Comprehension: grasping or understanding the meaning of informational materials. Use words such as: describe, explain, estimate, predict, identify, differentiate, etc., to encourage students to translate, interpret, and extrapolate. 

Application: applying previously learned information (or knowledge) to new and unfamiliar situations. Use words such as: demonstrate, apply, illustrate, show, solve, examine, classify, experiment, etc., to encourage students to apply knowledge to situations that are new and unfamiliar. 

Analysis: breaking down information into parts, or examining (and trying to understand the organizational structure of) information. Use words and phrases such as: what are the differences, analyze, explain, compare, separate, classify, arrange, etc., to encourage students to break information down into parts. 

Synthesis: applying prior knowledge and skills to combine elements into a pattern not clearly there before. Use words and phrases such as: combine, rearrange, substitute, create, design, invent, what if, etc., to encourage students to combine elements into a pattern that's new. 

Evaluation: judging or deciding according to some set of criteria, without real right or wrong answers. Use words such as: assess, decide, measure, select, explain, conclude, compare, summarize, etc., to encourage students to make judgments according to a set of criteria. 

Fairly recently, Bloom’s work has been updated. Anderson and Krathwohl's 2000 Taxonomy looks at how the different categories of thinking intersect and how different thought processes work within each category.  By rethinking the concept of “levels,” teachers can design lessons that differentiate lower order skills from higher order skills. Rather than making tasks harder, they can be made more complex. 

Remembering: Retrieving, recalling, or recognizing knowledge from memory. Remembering is when memory is used to produce definitions, facts, or lists, or recite or retrieve material. 

Understanding:  Constructing meaning from different types of functions be they written or graphic messages activities like interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining.  

Applying:  Carrying out or using a procedure through executing, or implementing. Applying related and refers to situations where learned material is used through products like models, presentations, interviews or simulations. 

Analyzing:  Breaking material or concepts into parts, determining how the parts relate or interrelate to one another or to an overall structure or purpose. Mental actions included in this function are differentiating, organizing, and attributing, as well as being able to distinguish between the components or parts. When one is analyzing he/she can illustrate this mental function by creating spreadsheets, surveys, charts, or diagrams, or graphic representations.

Evaluating:  Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing. Critiques, recommendations, and reports are some of the products that can be created to demonstrate the processes of evaluation.  In the newer taxonomy evaluation comes before creating as it is often a necessary part of the precursory behavior before creating something.   

Creating: Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing. Creating requires users to put parts together in a new way or synthesize parts into something new and different a new form or product.  This process is the most difficult mental function in the new taxonomy.  

Classifying skills as lower order & higher order may be a bit misleading, however, this is based on how complex the thinking is. Our brains have over 100 billion neurons and in most cases remembering, understanding and applying are fairly straightforward tasks. Higher order thinking skills, such as analyzing, evaluating and creating are much more complex. 

Based on these levels of thinking, many teachers may think that younger students can’t be given higher-level thinking questions. In fact, that’s not true. Challenging all students through higher-order questioning is one of the best ways of stimulating learning despite age or educational level. Asking students to think at higher levels, beyond simple recall, is an excellent way to stimulate students' thought processes. Different types of questions require us to use different kinds or levels of thinking. 

In addition, it’s important for teachers to keep in mind that even students who are able to learn on higher cognitive levels, still need exposure to the basics. For example, students who may be very capable of creating very imaginative stories won’t be able to write effectively without the basic knowledge of spelling, vocabulary and grammar.

There are a variety of graphic representations of both versions of Bloom’s Taxonomy available online. Teachers might find it helpful to print their favorite and hang it up in the area where lesson planning takes place. It’s a good reminder to keep these thought processes in mind when crafting lessons and assessments.


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